Exclusive Premiere! Matt Wilson Quartet Releases “Hug”

Matt Wilson and friends. All photography by John Abbott.

Matt Wilson is giving the Modern Drummer community an early “sneak peek” at his new single, “Hug,” from his upcoming quartet album of the same name.

“Greetings to my sisters and brothers of the drum and beyond,” says Wilson. “We hug to show our affection to the folks we love. In these times, where this beautiful human act has been temporarily limited, we need more implicit ways to express our love. We, in the Matt Wilson Quartet, want to offer you a gift of a sonic hug in hopes it lifts your spirits and brightens your days. Please enjoy our song, ‘Hug.'”

Joined by saxophonist Jeff Lederer, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, and bassist Chris Lightcap, Wilson will release “Hug” to the rest of the world on April 24—the date Hug [Palmetto] will be available for pre-order HERE. Advertisement


The quartet plans to release a series of singles—“Space Force” on May 15, “Everyday With You” on June 12, and “The One Before This” on July 17—with the full album going on sale August 28. Album-release concerts are currently scheduled for October 9 and 10 at Smalls Jazz Club, New York City.

“We’ve worked together so much, and Hug represents the value of keeping the same people in a band, and that great sharing that happens in the group,” says Wilson. “The band is the template more than the material. Hug is about what four people can do with new music, or on a tune by Dewey Redman or Abdullah Ibrahim. Jeff, Kirk, and Chris have been in the group so long they’ve really evolved and grown into such identifiable musical characters.”

Wilson’s previous album, Honey and Salt: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Carl Sandburg [Palmetto], was named by The Jazz Journalist Association as its 2018 Record of the Year, and Wilson was also the JJA’s Musician of the Year. Hug is a very different kind of project—although the eclectic array of material is united by the quartet’s rough-and-tumble approach, as these consummate improvisers pull and push each other through a disparate set of tunes. Advertisement

Perhaps the album’s biggest surprise is a concisely reverent arrangement of Roger Miller’s 1965 chart-topping country hit “King of the Road” that features some sweet Lederer clarinet and Wilson’s exquisite brush work.

“I’ve probably listened to Roger Miller’s Greatest Hits more than any other record,” says Wilson. “It’s my roots, and that’s why I like swing. There’s this great ‘two’ feel at the top with the finger snaps. Swing is in every kind of American music, and this is an important part of my story.”

For more than three decades, Wilson has been an educator, drummer, composer, and collaborator who has served as a rhythmic muse for many of jazz’s greatest improvisers. Hug is his 14th album as a leader, and it extends his career-defining relationship with Palmetto producer Matt Balitsaris. Advertisement

“The song is the fifth member of the band,” says Wilson. “Just relax and play the song, and everything will emerge from it.”

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